Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Sounds like a fancy way of saying I’ll be grading your work, doesn’t it? Unlike your English teacher though, an editor lives and breathes books—and, when you become a client, your editor lives and breathes for your books. Editors don’t just enjoy reading books either, they study them and their markets. Part of the job is staying on top of trends and marketable topics. For first and final drafts, an assessment is a comprehensive and affordable way to prep a manuscript for print.
So What Are the Steps?
Personally, I like to use a five-part template. I work in this structure to keep things clear and keep my own ideas concise (I am well-known for my tangents, ha). It also let’s me discuss everything a book needs to be successful.
Part 1: First Impressions
Normally, the first step of editing is to do a cold read (read from start to finish without editing), but the first read of my assessment fills out my first impressions. This is great for the author because you’ll know how I, as just a reader, felt about your book. What drew me in? What made me pause? Where did I lose interest? Where was I most excited? This also helps me because then I know where to zero in on my critique.
Part 2: Content
The meaty part of the assessment! I focus on all the good stuff: setting, characterization, dialogue, etc. This part will tell you what content editing might need to be completed, and it’ll also tell you where I think your writing is strongest and weakest. For example, my editor tells me my plot chronology is awful, but I write action scenes very well.
Part 3: Technical
This section sometimes comes into play and sometimes it doesn’t: it wholly depends on how finished the project is...though I usually have something to say here to give people an idea of what kind of editing they may need after the assessment. If I notice a lot of typos or that the writing is too reliant on long sentence structures, I’ll make a note of it in this part.
While I always recommend a copy edit before anything goes to print, there may be some other technical quirks worth mentioning. This section gets a little bit bigger when I’m given a book with design elements, artwork, or formatting already completed.
Part 4: Marketability
While knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie is important, knowing where to market your book can be even more important. You need to know what will sell your book and how to pitch it to an agent (and which agent to pitch to). This can be a bit tricky when you’ve been knee deep writing for months (and years).
Furthermore, editors are always doing their best to stay on top of recent trends, whether by reading the newest, published novels; attending literary conventions; or keeping an eye out for what’s new and exciting in the industry. In this section, I can tell you how your project compares to what’s currently available and any ideas to tailor your book to its genre’s audience (or suggest an audience if you’re unsure).
Part 5: The Wrap-Up or General Comments
This is pretty self-explanatory, but some have wondered why I bother with what amounts to a “conclusion.” Manuscript assessments can be very heavy—as an author you’re emotionally invested in your work—and critique, while vital, can be a lot to process.
An assessment isn’t just about pointing out a project’s flaws. It looks at strengths and possible methods to fix those weaknesses. An editor’s goal with a manuscript assessment is to provide as many options to improve a manuscript as possible. Of course, to keep this option affordable, we can’t point out every instance, but you should come away with a clear idea of where your project is solid and where it needs work.
Therefore, I find it useful to provide a “too long; didn’t read” portion...although it usually becomes a “I panicked when I saw this MS assessment was 21 pages and needed to know if you ultimately loved or hated my work” section for many of my clients.
I know some of you skip to the end of a book to see how it ends, so this section’s for you. ;)
Why Should I Get a Manuscript Assessment (Isn't It Just a Beta Read)?
I always encourage authors to find a good pack of beta readers or a writing group to discuss their early drafts. A manuscript assessment differs in its professionalism and scope. Your beta readers may miss crucial (and saleable) points of your novel or not know how to describe what’s wrong with a chapter.
Worse—and this is the complaint I hear most often—they may take inordinate amounts of time to get back to you and may not be able to offer all the in-depth advice needed to get a project from rough draft to polished final...or they vanish completely.
Beta readers are great, but an editor works for you. I work to your deadlines. I won’t vanish without a word or give up halfway. This is my livelihood and, most importantly, I want my clients (that’s you) to have the best manuscript possible.
Not every editor offers a manuscript assessment, but I like to keep the option there because a full edit of a rough draft (for a standard 80,000-word novel) can run upwards of $4,000 (and as high as $8,000-$10,000 depending on where you go and what you need). Now, at ScribeCat.ca, that includes two passes, but that’s a rough price for any author to handle (even in instalments).
Because no actual editing is done, a manuscript assessment can cost a fraction of that at $250-$450 for an 80,000-word novel (pricing mostly varying because of deadlines). Professional, in-depth advice at an affordable price.
Thinking about getting your manuscript assessed? Get a free 10-page evaluation or request your manuscript assessment by filling out our Project Request Form.